Tonight we were lucky in the football aspect and terribly unlucky on the injury side. A free flowing Bale, who was playing quite well, went down to a muscle injury early in the match. Halfway through he was joined by Varane and shortly after Sergio Ramos with a shoulder injury.
Navas got yet another clean sheet tonight and continues to be unbeaten so far this campaign. He muffled a back-pass at one point that almost ended up between the goalposts, to the crowd’s dismay, but made a great save at the end of the match drawing the Bernabeu’s applause.
Shahkter was unlucky on the night as the first goal came when their goalkeeper mishandled the ball after a save and Benzema pounced on it. Then they went a man down when 2 yellow cards were dished out to the same player. Shortly after that they were hit with a handball penalty that shouldn’t have been called. Other than that they had some dangerous moments on the counter-attack but couldn’t make it count.
In my last article ahead of the Espanyol match I said I expected Ronaldo to return to his scoring ways and mentioned the last (an only) time he put 5 into the back of the net. Ironically he went on to score 5 again that night to end his short season-beginning draught.
Tonight he continued in the same way with 3 more goals. Two scores came from hand-ball penalties and the last came after Shahktar’s goalkeeper saved a shot from Marcelo. Cristiano took the ball on the deflection and scored a nice looking header. He wasn’t at the top of his normal level of precision tonight with some mistimed passes and missed shots on goal, but Cristiano looked electric, like much of the rest of the team.
When Shahkter went down to 10 men Real continued to press, attack and create chances. They moved the ball around extremely well, as they also did in periods of the Espanyol match. It’s quite exciting to see. They seem to now be running on all cylinders.
I wasn’t so sure Kovacic was the necessary addition we needed this year, instead of a striker per se, but now I’ve become a believer. He moves the ball really well and also defends extremely well. Last year we burnt out our midfielders and lost everything at the end. This year we are stacked with quality in the midfield, so prepared that we could have 2 or 3 great players go down and still have them covered.
I would like to see Cheryshev get some minutes but other than that I think Benitez is doing an excellent job with the players. He may just win me over yet.